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This Old House - Do-it-Yourself

Must-Haves for Aging in Place

Written by Jaymi Naciri Posted On Tuesday, 12 March 2019 05:00

Getting ready to retire? You must be making the trek to Florida to live out your “Golden years,” right? Not your speed? You’re not alone. Aging in place is a growing trend, as retirees opt to stay close to friends and family and in the neighborhood they love.

“Ninety percent of older Americans would prefer to live in their own home as they age, according to AARP,” said Lifeline. But doing so typically requires changes to the home to accommodate the realities of aging—changes HomeAdvisor highlighted in their most recent Aging in Place Report.

“As we heard from survey respondents both aged 55 to 75 and aged 75 and over, the key to facilitating aging in place is actually taking a holistic approach to home improvement leading up to aging in place — doing things like simplifying landscaping, repairing and replacing windows, swapping out door handles, and organizing closets and storage areas,” they said. “Take a front walkway, for example. If there are cracks or dips in the concrete, homeowners would want to address those existing safety issues before consider installing a wheelchair ramp or a railing that they’re not sure they’ll ever need. And installing self-cleaning gutters will not only make life easier in the short term, but it will also ensure that gutter cleaning is covered when climbing a ladder becomes too precarious later on.”

The survey found that respondents in both the 55 to 75 and 75 and over categories were motivated to make home improvements in order to simplify their lives—“even above aesthetics, safety, accessibility and increased home value.”

The top individual projects varied depending on the age of the respondent, although many, such as adding pullout shelves in kitchen cabinets (No. 1, 55 to 75, No. 2, 75 and over) made both lists. Others included:

Changing doorknobs to levers—This simple change makes it easier to operate door hardware for anyone who may be suffering from arthritis or have issues with their joints that make grasping and turning the doorknob difficult.

Changing out flooring from tile or stone to wood or carpet—Taking steps to minimize the potential for injury in the home is key for those looking to age in place.

Installing a smart security system or smart thermostat—Adding smart home features is one of the most popular trends spanning every demographic, and they’re hot in the senior market, said Healthy Women. “Smart thermostats keep your home at the perfect temperature without you needing to fuss with the dial. Automatic blinds keep the sun out of your eyes and maintain your home's temperature. The best part? Not needing to fight with those pesky cords. Smart showers allow you to customize everything from the water's temperature to your morning playlist. Every morning you just press a button to be greeted with your perfect shower. Smart doors act like your butler. Just walk up to the door and it opens itself for you—no keys, locks or handles. A key fob or your smartphone serves as your ID.”

Making renovations to bathrooms including comfort-height toilets and grab bars—Ugh, grab bars. Is that what you’re thinking? The good news is that not only do these features provide protection, they’re also being designed with new flair to make them appear as decorative as they are useful. “As considerations for aging in place and safety in retirement house design become more top of mind for home builders and their clients, new solutions are being developed that provide functional items such as shower grab bars without creating a design that stigmatizes the homeowner,” said Lifeline. “One of our favorite new lines that we’ve utilized in retirement house designs is that Invisia Collection by American Standard. This collection disguises grab bars as decorative flourishes on traditional bath accessories such as toilet paper rolls, towel bars and the like. They offer the functional strength and durability needed to aid the homeowner – without being overt. Their design is elegant and modern.”

There’s one more important change you likely want to consider to make your home well-prepared for your retirement years: Single-story living.

If you don't already have a single-story home, perhaps you have a master suite on the first floor. Don’t have that either? There are renovations that can help transform the home into something that lives more like a single-story:

• Turn an unneeded space into a first-floor master—have an unused guest room, formal living room, or dining room? That might provide the perfect opportunity to create a first-floor master.
• Add an elevator—Elevators are a big trend, but can also be a big expense. Homeowners looking to stay in their home well into retirement can add an elevator if they’re willing to pay anywhere from $25,000 to $45,000+. Be sure to ask your real estate agent for the probably return on investment first.
• Add on to the home—This can be an even larger expense than adding an elevator, depending on how extensive the addition is, but if you’re set on staying in your home for retirement, it might be well worth it.

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